Observations and musings on Jacksonville Politics

Sales Tax Hike Coming?

Florida’s new Speaker of the House isn’t completely enamored with Charlie Crist’s optimism.  Asked today if Crist’s approach would work, the new Speaker seemed to indicate otherwise:

“I love optimism. I love optimism,” Cretul said in a news conference. “But I also have been around long enough (to know) that sometimes even optimism is not necessarily the solution to the problem.” Do you feel like the governor has been too optimistic? “I think you need to probably to ask the governor that.”

Cretul promised a more realistic approach, including a indication that a temporary tax increase was on the table.

House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, told reporters today that he would entertain debate on a temporary sales tax increase.

“One of the graet things about being part of this process is there are always ideas,” Cretul said. “Those ideas do need to be vetted out.”


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Sansom grand jury convenes today

A grand jury today will consider Ray Bellamy’s ethics complaint against Ray Sansom.  Bellamy filed his with the North Florida state attorney, Willie Meggs, after a series of newspaper reports that the 46-year-old politician might have used his power to secure a six-figure job and approve state funding for a political benefactor’s project.

“Somebody has got to stop this,” Bellamy said, “or it’s going to become the standard for future House speakers and legislators.”

Since he was sworn in as House speaker on Nov. 18, Sansom has been the target of two ethics complaints – in addition to the grand jury inquiry – that question whether he was offered a $110,000-per-year job at Northwest Florida State College as payback for securing the school – about the size of Indian River State College – tens of millions of dollars in construction projects.

Also at question is Sansom’s role in one project in particular: $6 million from the state to build Northwest Florida State an emergency training facility 16 miles from its Niceville campus on land leased by Destin Jet.

The company’s owner, Jay Odom, who has contributed more than $100,000 to Sansom’s political committees, had hoped the training facility would double as a jet hangar. News of the hangar was first reported by the St. Petersburg Times.

Sansom also is facing questions from Attorney General Bill McCollum, a fellow Republican whose office confirmed last week it is looking into whether Sansom and Northwest Florida State President James “Bob” Richburg tried to skirt state open-meeting laws to strategize about legislation that would transform the school from a community college to a state college. [Palm Beach Post]

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Florida has its own pay to play politicians

Courtesy of cartoonist Jim Morin and the Miami Herald:

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Sansom Lawyers Up

From the St. Pete Times:

House Speaker Ray Sansom has retained ethics lawyer Richard Coates to handle the complaint a Clearwater man filed after Sansom got a $110,000 job at Northwest Florida State College.

Coates is a well-known lawyer in Tallahassee and has appeared numerous times before the Florida Commission on Ethics. Among others, Coates has defended former state CFO Tom Gallagher in a stock trading case that was dropped after Gallagher lost the GOP gubernatorial primary to Charlie Crist.

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Ray Sansom Looks to use role as Speaker to Benefit Employer

More controversy from the Speaker of the Florida House.


House Speaker Ray Sansom’s prowess for securing millions in tax money for his local college is about to be put to the test.

Though Northwest Florida State College, which now employs Sansom, wants $13.2-million in the upcoming fiscal year, the Department of Education is recommending only $748,000, according to records.


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Scarborough: Dump Sansom

Joe Scarborough, former Congressman and host of the widely popular “Morning Joe”, calls on Florida Republicans to dump the Speaker of the Florida House.

The events of the past week have revealed Barack Obama to be a politician who remained silent while a political ally got entangled in sleazy Chicago scandals. What does Obama’s silence say about his character?

That’s a question Florida Republicans should be asking themselves today, as their House speaker finds himself in the middle of a growing ethical storm.

Rep. Ray Sansom, R-Destin, has been a friend of mine and a political ally since I first ran for Congress in 1994. But like Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the Ray Sansom that I have read about bears little resemblance to the guy I have known for 15 years.

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What do Duval’s House Republicans think of their Speaker?

I certainly haven’t heard any of the members of the Duval Delegation raise any questions about Florida’s new Speaker of the House, but questions are starting to surface about what he did to deserve his new $110,000-a-year job with a state community college (announced the day he officially took over as Speaker of the Florida House).  Certainly our Duval Representatives have an opinion on this?

Last spring, the agency overseeing Florida’s colleges made a list of budget requests in what was one of the leanest years in modern history. Northwest Florida State College was slated to get $1-million for a building project.

Yet when lawmakers signed off on the budget in May, the school had snagged $25.5-million — the single largest project of any college.

For that, it could thank state Rep. Ray Sansom, the Destin Republican who controlled the House budget.

The assistance, documented in a memo the St. Petersburg Times obtained this week through a public records request, highlights the close relationship between Sansom and the college president, Bob Richburg.

Last week that affiliation burst into public view when Sansom was given a $110,000 job as a vice president at the college.


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